Study: Vegan diet for dogs, cats growing in popularity?

GUELPH, Ontario — Dogs typically love to chow down on beefy bones and treats, but more owners may be turning their beloved pets away from meat. A new study finds that a quarter of owners who are vegans themselves feed their dog or cat a vegan diet, while more than a third of all dog and cat owners are interested in a plant-based diet for their pet.

The online survey of 3,673 dog and cat owners from around the world reveals that while just 6 percent of pet owners are vegan, 27 percent of that segment are also raising vegan pets.

“That percentage, 27 percent, might sound like a small number, but when you think of the actual numbers of pets involved, that’s huge, and much higher than we expected,” says lead author Sarah Dodd, a PhD candidate at the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Population Medicine, in a news release.

In all, that number amounts to 1.6 percent of the 2,940 dogs in the survey and 0.7 percent of the 1,545 cats. The totals jumped to 10.4 percent of dogs and 3.3 percent of cats when it came to animals fed vegan meals occasionally.

Though only vegans and one vegetarian were found to feed their pets strict plant-based diets among the respondents, the survey shows that — perhaps surprisingly — 35 percent of owners who followed traditional diets for their pets were also interested in switching to a vegan one. But 55 percent of that group says stipulations would need to be in place for such a dramatic change, including approval from their vet that cutting meat, fish, and dairy from their pet’s diet was healthy. They also would want to be sure that the new food was easily available.

“People have been hearing about how vegan diets are linked to lowered risks of cancer and other health benefits in humans. There is also growing concern about the environmental impact of animal agriculture,” says Dodd. “So, while only a small proportion of pet owners are currently feeding plant-based diets to their pets, it is safe to say that interest in the diets is likely to grow.”

Yet despite the growth, Dodd admits little research confirms that a vegan diet for dogs or cats is a sustainable and healthy one, and that more studies are needed.

The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.